Just like thousands of other people out there, I discovered The Swell Season – the duo that is Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – from the highly successful and unforgettable 2007 movie ‘Once‘. The songs in the movie are so beautiful and haunting that I decided to buy the soundtrack to the movie, The Swell Season‘s self-titled first CD and now I have their second album that they released last year. Sadly, I missed their concerts when they played here in Australia. They even came down to Adelaide! I hope there will be a next time.
Their second album is called Strict Joy – and listening to the album is like catching up with good friends who share their stories through their songs. Hansard and Irglova are no longer a couple, apparently, but have remained good friends. I sincerely, deeply hope they will continue to work together to produce beautiful music.
Strict Joy has moments that are similar to the music of Once – intimate and delicate, almost private – but some also venture to a more upbeat place, like High Horses or The Verb. Nevertheless, the songs are still as down-to-earth and as sincere as their predecessors. Their harmonisation is still sublime. Of course, pure romantics will probably prefer if they stick to the same working formula as the one that they used for Once, but I’m glad that they continue to evolve and bring us along on their journey.
So what are my favourites in this album – after the first listen, some left a deep impression: Back Broke is filled with happy words if you read the lyric without listening to the song, but it is actually a melancholic tune. It’s as if you were listening to a friend who carries a deep burden in his heart but tries to be happy for you. In These Arms is just a special and intimate song – in a darkened room, you can probably conjure both Hansard and Irglova in the room, singing especially just for you. Another song that makes me smile is Paper Cup – filled with longing and honest, sincere words.
Strict Joy is another gem from The Swell Season. In an era of synthesised, mass-produced formulaic music, thank goodness for groups like The Swell Season who have their feet down on the ground, and are not afraid to reveal their heart to us.